LASIK: Everything You Need to Know
I have been wearing glasses since I was in 3rd grade and always knew that I’d want to get LASIK one day. Before I got my procedure done I wanted to know everything and anything about it from people who had gone through it firsthand. So I thought I’d put this together to share my experience from the moment I got glasses to life after LASIK.
How It Started
I started wearing glasses when I was in 3rd grade. I remember every year following, I had to visit the optometrist to get a new prescription and subsequently a new pair of glasses. We did not have vision insurance so every year it was hundreds of dollars spent just so I could see and go about my daily life. When I was in junior high, I started dance as an extracurricular, and dancing in glasses was definitely a challenge. As I transitioned into high school, I was able to convince my mom to let me get contacts. I had made the dance team and didn’t want to worry about my glasses falling off during a competition.
My vision progressively got worse every year and every year I became more and more annoyed with it. I admittedly was wearing contacts pretty carelessly, using my monthly contacts for well over a month, and occasionally sleeping in them. However, this all caught up to me in college. After a night of sleeping in my old contacts, I woke up with foggy vision, and my eyes felt like sandpaper. I had bilateral corneal abrasions and was basically blind for a week. This set me back on my school work and my professors had no mercy. I definitely suffered the consequences of my actions.
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Why I Chose LASIK
I have needed glasses or contacts for most of my life just to function. Naturally LASIK was something that I’ve wanted for a very long time. Now in my late 20’s, my vision has stabilized. I have not had to renew my prescription for about 3 years. As a young adult, I want to be free to work, travel, and just live my life without the constant hassle of glasses and contacts. So of course I started thinking more and more about LASIK and apparently so were my friends. In the last year a bunch of them had LASIK and told me how life changing it was. When asked who’d they recommend, the majority of them said Mann Eye Institute (MEI). I spent days reading through Reddit, Google, and Yelp and saw a bunch of positive reviews and experiences so I took a leap and scheduled a consultation.
Consultations at MEI are complementary and lasts about 1.5 hours. They ran a bunch of tests on my eyes to get measurements, take pictures, and test my vision. The tests were easy and not uncomfortable. Most just involved me looking at a light without blinking or reading a chart. There wasn’t even that air puff test that they do at the optometrist office that I always dread. At the end of the consultation, they determined that I would be good candidate for LASIK. My diagnosis was myopia or nearsightedness with a prescription of around -5.0 with astigmatism. The doctor then explained to me what I could expect, side effects, and allowed me to ask questions and addressed my concerns.
To end the visit, I spoke with their counselor to discuss more about logistics, scheduling, and financials. The cost of LASIK includes the procedure itself and all subsequent follow up appointments. Unfortunately, most insurance companies consider LASIK cosmetic and do not cover it. However Mann Eye Institute does offer payment plans and they’re also offering a referral discount of $1,200 if you mention that I referred you. MEI has several locations in the Austin and Houston areas.
How LASIK Works
LASIK or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis is a vision correction surgery. The surgeon creates a corneal flap using a femtosecond laser. Then the flap is moved aside. A second excimer laser is used to correct the vision by reshaping the surface of the eye. Lastly, the flap is positioned back into place. At MEI they perform all laser LASIK with WaveLight FS200 and Allegretto Wave lasers.
Temporary side effects of LASIK include light sensitivity, dry eyes, and halos around lights. It is recommended that UV blocking sunglasses be worn at tall times in bright light, indoors or outdoors. Dry eyes is one of the most common side effects and can cause blurry vision. It is important to use eye drops as prescribed and preservative-free artificial tears often. Haloing around light is also another common side effect. For me, it is most prominent at night. However it doesn’t bother me that much or inhibit my ability to drive. Lights just appear to glow. These side effects usually go away over time as your eye heals.
LASIK Procedure Day
Leading up to the procedure, I had to refrain from wearing contacts for about a week so that my eyes weren’t super dry. On the day of, I had to make sure to have someone available to drive me home, eat beforehand so I wouldn’t be taking medication on an empty stomach, avoid caffeine so I can sleep afterwards, and wear no makeup.
Once at the office, they did a couple more vision checks, and prepped me for the procedure. They gave me a hairnet, gauze to keep eye drops from going into my ears, numbing drops for my eyes, and Valium to help me relax for the procedure.
Dr. Paul Mann performed my LASIK surgery. The whole procedure is done while you’re awake but it was super quick. I was in the procedure room for a total of 10 minutes max. They constantly gave me numbing drops so I didn’t feel any pain. It did feel like a lot of pressure on my eye though. The pressure builds and at one point, my vision blacked out. However they continuously talked me through the procedure so I knew that everything happening was normal. I was advised to just keep focusing on the light in front of me and before I knew it, it was over.
There are activity limits for the month after surgery. The hardest ones for me are not rubbing my eyes for a month, sleeping in eye shields for a week, and no ceiling fan for 24 hours. Following the procedure, there are several follow up appointments – 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and more as needed. At MEI, they have a two year enhancement policy. If you complete all your standard follow-ups, any enhancements needed within two years of surgery is free of charge.
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After the procedure, they taped shields over my eyes to protect them. I was given some sunglasses and instructed to take a long nap when I got home. They also sent me home with Pred-Moxi eyedrops to take every 2 hours and artificial tears every 1-2 hours. When I got home, I napped for about 3 hours. After waking up, I removed my eye shields and although a bit blurry, I could see so much better than I could before. I tried to keep my eyes closed for the remainder of they day except during dinner. My husband and I watched TV while eating and I could actually see the TV. Something I never would’ve been able to do without glasses before.
1 Day Post-Op
I had a 1 day post-op appointment the day after my surgery. My vision was already getting better from the first day. I still experienced blurriness but was able to see well enough to pass a driver license vision test. Another thing I would’ve never been able to do without glasses before. The doctor examined my eyes and said the flap was looking good and healing well. He reassured me that blurriness is normal in the beginning and will clear up as I heal. It could take up to a month and since I have astigmatism, my eyes may take longer to stabilize.
1 Week Post-Op
At my 1 week post-op appointment, I was still experiencing blurriness. The doctor said that my flaps were still healing nicely but the blurriness was due to dry eyes. My tears were disappearing quickly after blinking. To help resolve the issue they gave me a different set of drops to try out. One was a gel-based eye drop to use before bed and after waking up. The other was an oil-based eye drop to be used hourly throughout the day. They said to continue this for a week and if no improvement, to return for another exam.
In summary, my experience was great. The staff at MEI always make me feel well taken care of. The doctors listen to my concerns and work with me to address them. At this point I am only 1 week post-op and am still healing. The blurriness I am experiencing so far is expected. Although my vision isn’t perfect yet, I can now do things and go about my everyday life without glasses or contacts, which I consider a major win. I’ve compared notes with my friends and others who have had LASIK and they all shared similar stories. I plan to update this as I go along if you’re considering getting LASIK and interested in following my journey!